Archive for the ‘going green’ Category

Creatures In My Garden

 Two Worlds Collide

With one exception, I encourage critters in my garden. Creeping, jumping, slithering or flying — they are all welcomed!

You see, I am the intruder into their world where life, wonder, grace, purpose and  beauty abound.   Sure, there is struggle, even fierce conflict and death, but not senseless destruction, we humans accept as part of ours.

Yes, I experience conflicting emotions.   From youth my thinking has been guided toward  “If it is small, exceptionally large, or extraordinary, destroy it.”

IMG_0101The rationalization is this annihilation is done in the name of science ( study it), our protection and preservation (it might do harm ),  maybe boastful pride ( a trophy).

In my garden, I can be different.  There is no need to destroy simply because it is here;  the beauty of co-existence brings appreciation for the little things.    There is no need for two worlds to collide.

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Gone Leaf Crazy

Leaf me no excuses

Raised bed garden from REARHave made halfhearted attempts to use compost over the years but have found the  piles more than I cared to deal with.

I have no doubt of the  benefits, just tend to lose  interest in the building, turning and time involved from garden waste to finished product.

Now, age has created an endurance factor that severely limits my ability to do these things, anyway.

My small property does not generate  enough by-product; I have to purchase nitrogenous materials to add to the small amount of brown waste I do produce; there is no source for animal manures readily available.

Interested in any more excuses for NOT?

Bag them leaves–I will come

After tearing down  two  small piles of waste and actually seeing what could be accomplished, my interest in composting was renewed.  This time I decided there might be a way to compost, even with my limited materials.

Effort number one:  call the city sanitation department  about getting some leaves delivered.    Well, seems that even though we must bag our leaves for street side pickup, delivery to my property was not possible.

The leaf bags are collected by machine and dumped into a garbage type truck which mixes everything into one big glob of mess.   Drats!

The sanitation supervisor suggested:  “Why don’t you  collect the bags ahead of us?”    Bingo!!

Effort number two: Homeowners  spend week ends cleaning leaves  from lawns, bagging them,  placing on the curb for pickup by the city on an irregular basis.   I can get all the leaves I want.A godsend, a common disposal site

Actually, I had done this on a limited basis under cover of darkness, but felt self-conscious.   Being granted permission to pick up another man’s trash,  freed me of guilt..so off I go in the daylight with my little truck.

What luck,  one  neighborhood has chosen a common dump area to place its bags.   Their leaves..my treasure!

Over a two week period I have all the leaves I can use for another year!

Well, actually, I have bags of leaves piled high against my fence.  I have a thick layer of leaves on beds I am determined to reclaim for flowers around my property.

 My problem?  They need shredding!

Effort number  three: Folks, except for shredding with a lawnmower, I have never shredded leaves.  Yep, I have preconceived naive ideas of how simple this is going to be.        Mower does a good job–but I have so many!

Heck, all those commercials make it look so easy using a leaf vac .   I try it.  A real pain in the butt!  Not any faster than the lawnmower–and a lot more work.

If I just had a  shredder chipper–now, surely,  all I have to do is dump ’em in and stand back!

A good friend loaned me a  one of those mini monsters that are suppose to chop 2 inch limbs; boy, I can visualize  my pulverized treasure piling up in front of that thing!

Was I ever educated to the fact that just because  it looks like it SHOULD be easy, it ain’t necessarily!   I have to hand feed this joker through that leaf shoot, one handful at a time!

I  found a  machine  designed as a leaf shredder that seems it would be heavy duty enough for what  I am doing ( leaf feed bin that could  accommodate a bag of leaves each dump)   almost $800 (on sale); I am sticking to  hand feeding that sucker I am using.

I think all this effort will pay

In the first photo you see my raised garden area where I plan to concentrate my efforts this year.     My flower beds will be receiving their share of my collected treasure.Lettuce and Cabbage in raised bed  4-20

 Realistically, greater benefit will come in 2014 when all this will be leaf mold, and real compost from the shredded materials I am preparing in a compost pile.

These leaves, originally destined for the dump, will  give me all the organic matter I didn’ t have before;  add the nitrogen I get from my few chicken’s manure; throw in a few thousand red worms I am feeding in my worm bin—I might ………………………………..dreams keep us alive!!

Worms—they ain’t all bad!

A new “farm” venture.

Going to raise worms.

Now, don’t worry.  I don’t have visions of overnight wealth  promised in some of the old worm farm ads; I don’t  look forward to stabbing some poor squirming creature onto a fishing hook.

My goal — raise plants using that magic potion marketed as worm tea!

First, I got to come up with worm castings; this skinflint is not going to spend ten dollars for a bag of dirt labeled “worm poop”.

No sir, I want to make sure my worm castings are teaming with creatures from that unseen world of  my own vermiculture bin (dig that fancy word for  raising worms).  That means I’ll spend a little more than the minimum to set up my farm.   If it works I got a continuous supply of  worm poop that might be more economical….then again, might not!

The squirm on worms

Let me take my tongue out of my cheek to speak seriously of  these amazing creatures.

Admittedly, I have no experience raising these simple guts of the earth that seem capable of helping me garden more naturally, contribute to a less polluting solution of  waste disposal, and appear to be fun to work with.

One thing is for sure, they will be one conversation starter!   When I, innocently, asked my wife “Can you smell my worms”  I got one  hell of a response.    (I’ll explain that question later).

Research has lead to some interesting discoveries.

Some variety of this seemingly simple form of animal life  is found on nearly every continent.

I want compost, so my interest is the Eisenia fetida, also known as the Tiger worm or Red Wiggler.     If publicity is reliable, I should be able to set up  a small operation to utilize my kitchen waste with relatively little expense or space.   We shall see.

Entering the Worm World

Commercially there are hundreds of dealers willing to sell  fancy bins, but I ain’t buying.      While I hope vermiculture will push me toward a green solution, I am willing to compromise when it comes to bins.    Plastic containers will work  just fine, I read.

Since my computer room will be my farm location, I need:

  • A shallow bin ( six to ten inch depth is ideal).  Needs cover for darkness and to preserve moisture.worm  bin
  • Bedding.    Interestingly seems anything organic can be used.   Plenty of shredded leaves available.
  •  Food.   I got kitchwaste aplenty
  • Worms.  These I will order
  • Understanding wife.   After all, this is her house too.

Ordered and patiently wait for 1000 red wiggler..my stock is on the way!   My farm is about to officially begin operations!

My worms are here!

Will I realize my dreams of   kitchen waste becoming black gold in 4 months? Will there be plenty of worm poop to feed my  plants?  Will my wife  kick  my farm or me out into the cold outside?

I guess that will depend on her reply to my question:   “Can you smell my worms”

 

Going Green – No Big Deal

Few of us will disagree with the philosophy– going green will benefit the  world.

We give lip service to the idea, but let us face it,  projects touted to accomplish the feat are  beyond the financial means  ( okay, admit it) or the real interest of the majority.   They are too big.

Quickly the “what would the little I do  help?” attitude sucks us back into our old ways; we forget the whole green  idea.

The problem is we are all victims of the “big is better mindset”.   I have written earlier about how it affects my gardening efforts.  The same disease tends to kill my do-something   desires for making the world a little more safe and naturally productive.

There are many little things that set our paths toward  the new attitude.  Something as simple as toilet tissue can be the start.  Yep!

The simple clear reasoning of  Deloris Steinhouser’s  comment in her family business newsletter (September 2010) made me stop to reevaluate my thinking on going green.  With her permission I share her thoughts.

” I noticed a new brand of toilet paper at my friend’s house.  It’s made by Marcal® and branded Small Steps®.   It is made 100% from recycled materials.  The Marcal website explains the brand name, “Our name is inspired by those small changes that make a big difference.

Changing your paper purchases to the Small Steps® brand of eco-friendly products helps save trees, leaving a greener environment for future generations.”  I was impressed by this name, “Small Steps”.

I am often overwhelmed by today’s green movement.

It seems impossible to be totally green in my daily living, so I feel hypocritical if I do a small green thing, which is dwarfed by all the big non-green things that I do.  But this idea of small steps is compelling.

If we all just take a few small steps, it’s better than no steps at all.  Eventually those small steps will lead to bigger steps, and pretty soon, we’ll be back to where we started 50 years ago, when recycling was the norm, not the exception.

I can’t change all my bad habits overnight, but if I do one thing differently each year, my small steps will start making a difference.  I started composting kitchen scraps this year.”

Right on Deloris!